Japan to forge ahead with controversial U.S. base move in Okinawa despite opponents' poll win

Source: Xinhua| 2020-06-08 23:01:09|Editor: huaxia

TOKYO, June 8 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government said Monday it would continue to push forward with the contentious relocation of a U.S. military base within Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, despite opposing citizens and opponents to the move dominating in a local assembly election.

"We will go ahead with the relocation (of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma) to the Henoko district while carefully explaining the plan to local people," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

"There is no change in our stance," the Japanese top government spokesperson said, with reference to moving the base from the densely populated area in Ginowan to a coastal region also on the island.

After the 48-member prefectural assembly election held on Sunday, 27 are opposed to the plan to build a replacement facility in Henoko, Nago for the Futenma base, compared to 19 who are in favor of the move.

Two members of the assembly do not hold a public view either way on this matter.

The majority in the local assembly election sided with the residents of Okinawa in wishing for the base to be relocated outside of Okinawa or Japan altogether. It is a boon for Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki who has been campaigning against the central government's plans to move the base and U.S. base-hosting burdens to be lifted for local Okinawans.

Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, yet the tiny sub-tropical island accounts for just a small fraction of Japan's total landmass.

As well as shouldering the majority of U.S. bases and being victims of U.S. base-linked workers' criminal activities, which span rape and murder, to driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as a steady flow of accidents and mishaps involving U.S. military aircraft, the new location for the base has an extremely delicate ecosystem unique to Okinawa that the locals desperately want to protect.

The overall plans for the new base involve at least 157 hectares of land being reclaimed from pristine waters off the Henoko area and the building of a V-shaped runway.

The plans stem from a pact made between the United States and Japan in 1996, with Henoko being selected as the replacement site in 1999.

The local and central governments have been at odds over the relocation of the base, with Tamaki urging the central government to reduce Okinawa's disproportionate base-hosting burdens and shift the new base off the island.

Following the elections on Sunday, the Secretary General of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Tetsuro Fukuyama urged the Abe administration to seriously heed the result and stop ignoring the voices of Okinawans.

"The administration has continued to ignore the voices of Okinawa but it should listen and respond to them after the election," said Fukuyama. Enditem